Psychology of Translation: Critical and Creative Thinking

Psychology of Translation: Critical and Creative Thinking

Natalia Kashirina (Southern Federal University, Russia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6615-3.ch015
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The process of translation is treated as a sequence of three principal stages (pre-translation source text analysis, translation itself, self-assessment/editing). The chapter is aimed at proving that the first and the third stages of the translation process are based on critical thinking, while the second stage (translation itself) rests upon creative thinking. Therefore, teaching critical thinking must be a necessary part of translator professional training, because it is not only important as such, but also leads students to acquisition of mature creative thinking, which is crucial for translation problem-solving. In this chapter, the problem of training translation quality assessment is analyzed, the difference between critical and creative thinking is discussed, and psychological mechanisms of their functioning in translation are treated as a cognitive process; the role of critical thinking in raising translators' awarenesses and, consequently, translation quality is stressed.
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This chapter sums up some of the author’s experience of teaching translation to students majoring in linguistics and English-Russian translation. It is also based on the research made from 2002 to 20051, which explains why some points of the chapter are described in retrospect; many conclusions of the research have now been reconsidered and reformulated in the light of the years passed since.

Translation and interpretation (T & I) theoretical studies, as well as T & I training, are all about quality. Indeed, anyone having some knowledge of a foreign language can more or less successfully translate and/or interpret both ways. The only difference between a trained (professional) and amateur translator/interpreter is in performance quality. Hence, translators-to-be must be facilitated to acquire professional thinking, which is understood in this chapter as their ability to adequately translate any text at a minimum time and effort.

To this end translation training should incorporate critical and creative thinking training. More precisely, students must be facilitated to acquire critical and creative thinking skills. The idea, though not new, is worth extending in its practical part, for critical and creative thinking skills should not be taught “as such”, but rather as an integral part of translation studies. Ideally, critical thinking skills should be acquired through an academic subject or subjects; later, in their turn, they will contribute to the effectiveness of mastering translation skills.

According to Becker (1994), Bowell and Kemp (2002), Hassel (2004), Huitt (1998), Wakefield (1992), teaching critical thinking skills is a necessary component of any education and a key to success. Being the opposite of dogmatic, stereotypical, mundane thinking, critical thinking forms a considerable part of a person’s general competence and provides protection from any manipulation or propaganda. From the viewpoint of psychology and theory of education critical thinking is a cognitive process necessary for complex tasks solving. From this perspective critical thinking is sometimes called convergent, logical, or deductive thinking. It is also characterized as reflective thinking, i.e. the one aimed at self-assessment (Hassel, 2004).

Treatment of critical and creative thinking as parts of complex tasks solving seems to be relevant for translation studies, for in terms of cognitive psychology translation is a complex task. With this in mind, it is important to concentrate on the following problems: translation quality, translation process structure, translation as a cognitive process, the role of critical thinking in translation quality improving. As a result, a definition of pre-translation source text analysis (PTSTA) as an important phase of the translation process will be provided in the light of critical thinking studies. At the end of the chapter some comments and recommendations on teaching critical thinking and PTSTA will be given. The chapter logic is circular: the primary goal of translator training is translation quality. PTSTA as well as post-translation editing (PTE) is crucial for the quality of translated text (TT). Critical thinking is the psychological basis for both PTSTA and PTE. Besides, it contributes to the ripening of creative thinking, or translator’s insight. Consequently, it is crucial for translation quality.

The objectives of the chapter are:

  • 1.

    To determine the criteria necessary for written translation quality assessment relevant for translator training.

  • 2.

    To define PTSTA in the light of critical thinking studies and to suggest its scheme.

  • 3.

    To reveal the role of critical and creative thinking in the process of translation, and thereby clarify the psychological mechanism of translation optimization.

The given objectives predetermine the chapter structure.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Critical Thinking in Translation: A cognitive skill providing an ability to analyze the ST from different angles inclusively of linguistic, extralinguistic and pragmatic aspects, as well as an ability to evaluate TT as to the degree of its adequacy in relation to ST and particular conditions of the given instance of translation.

Translation Errors (TE): Errors in translation which endanger TT adequacy.

Translation Quality: Adequacy of translation, which means that TT is (a) pragmatically adapted in accordance with the ST and aimed at reproducing the same communicative function(s) as ST, (b) while maintaining, as far as possible, the content-structure dependency on the ST.

Post-Translation Editing (PTE): A critical-thinking-based cognitive activity aimed at TT evaluation and improvement (correction).

Translation Invariant: Certain structural, content-related and pragmatic unique features and components of ST necessary to be transferred to TT, so as to provide for its adequacy in relation to ST.

Pre-Translation Source Text Analysis (PTSTA): A critical-thinking-based cognitive activity aimed at (a) understanding of both content and message of the ST, inclusively of linguistic, extralinguistic (cognitive, discursive) and pragmatic aspects, and (b) determining of translation strategy and invariant.

Creative Thinking: A cognitive skill providing ability to consolidate all the necessary theoretical (structured and non-structured, conscious and intuitive) knowledge as well as practical skills in order to synthesize a TT adequate in relation to ST.

Translation Itself: The PTSTA-based process of synthesizing a TT adequate in relation to ST, involving consolidation of necessary theoretical (structured and non-structured, conscious and intuitive) knowledge as well as practical skills.

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